Drury Students Use Art to Bring Together a Community

Jun 12, 2014

Missouri Hotel residents tie-dye shirts with Drury students
Credit Taylor Brim / KSMU

For 14 years, a class offered at Drury University gives residents of the Missouri Hotel an artistic outlet to express themselves. Students taking the class are able to gain field experience, but also help residents look at their lives in new ways. KSMU’s Taylor Brim has more. 

“How does it make you feel to be able to do something like this?” Asks Yufei Zhao, a student at Drury University, who is participating in a course entitled Community Through Arts.

“Like a kid again,” the group responds “Fun. Like a kid again, yeah.”

“The last one I did was in 1968,” says one group member.  

“I’d like to hear about the last time you tie-dyed,” Sommer Brecheisen, another university student, asks.

“About when she did, 45 years ago,” another group member responds.   

Along Commercial Street in the basement of the Missouri Hotel, residents reminiscence with students about days when tie-dye was in style. They had earlier tie-dyed shirts as part of a Drury University course called Community Through the Arts. As part of the class, students volunteer at the The Kitchen, Inc., a temporary housing solution for homeless individuals and families. The course aims to promote engaged learning through liberal arts and achieves this through daily arts and crafts, small group discussion, and even sing-along songs.

The program was created 14 years ago by Dr. Rebecca Burrell, a professor of education at Drury, so that students could have a creative approach in everyday learning experiences.  Burrell explained that art can provide therapy to anyone, students and residents alike.

“The arts bring forth a healing process, a joyful process, an opportunity to have a little bit of respite from the everyday schedule of life. And to come together for an hour and half, just to immerse our very creative spirits,” Burrell said.

For the past two weeks, students have worked with residents on art projects. On Friday, residents get to showcase their work in an art exhibition. Stephanie March, a therapeutic case manager at The Kitchen, believes the exhibit is the most rewarding part for the residents.

“I think that anytime you can take pride in things that you’ve created, whether that’s art or a job, or for our residents, finding housing or getting over some of their barriers. Anytime you can celebrate yourself, that’s pretty important,” March said.

Barbara, a middle-aged hotel resident, attended Wednesday’s activity and tie-dyed a shirt for the first time since she was a kid. She says that her favorite part of the art classes is the camaraderie.